Huntsville Hospital President on updated visitation, elective surgery, policies

Huntsville Hospital is gearing up to make some changes.
Huntsville Hospital is gearing up to make some changes.
Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 4:20 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - As COVID cases once again surge across the southeast, local hospitals and healthcare facilities are quickly making changes.

Huntsville Hospital Health System announced changes to visitation policies Friday.

Additionally, in-patient elective surgeries will be postponed beginning Monday, August 9. Outpatient elective surgeries will continue.

Officials with HH say if a patient has elective surgery planned that will require an overnight (or longer) stay in a bed, the surgery will be postponed.

WAFF 48′s Liz Hurley spoke with Huntsville Hospital President and COO Tracy Doughty about the recent changes.

“We still want our patients to have visitors, when necessary, but we backed off just a little bit of our own visitation numbers in the hospital, the less people, you know, through the hallways and in our rooms, the less chance a staff member or a patient might get transmitted from a visitor, " Doughty said.

Doughty did say these changes were strictly for Madison County hospitals. He advises patients to visit the hospital website local to each county in order to know each hospital’s policy and guidelines.

Many people are wondering about women who are going into the hospital having babies. We asked Doughty about the status of of the maternity ward.

He explained there aren’t strong restrictions in the ward right now. While it isn’t the safest to have an entire extended family in one room, they are allowing loved ones such as husbands, parents, midwives, etc.

Doughty mentioned this isn’t a total setback, but just a way of dialing things back.

“All visitation will just dial back, just a little bit, " Doughty said. “As school is starting back, people are out and about. The numbers are rising in the system. For example, today we have 122 patients in Madison County. I go back a month ago, there are 18 plus patients in Madison County. So 122 today, a month ago was 18. So you can see the exponential growth over the last month, and over 90 percent of those people in the hospital are not vaccinated.”

He emphasized when people with COVID should go to a flu clinic versus the emergency room.

“We have our fever and flu clinic open. We have that location for that purpose and we don’t get our ER overwhelmed or their urgent care centers in the market that do those testing. We have several in the market, Huntsville Hospital urgent cares and others, but we have reserved the ER for having shortness of breath or other symptoms that that aren’t normal. Everybody knows their body and how they’re feeling, what’s normal what’s not normal. If you just got a little bit of fever or headache or cough, the ER is probably not the right place for you. Visit one of our urgent care centers or the fever flu clinic given shortness of breath, or, you know, body aches that you can’t explain and they’re worsening, those things that trigger your senses that there’s something else going on, please come to the ER.”

There are also changes coming for patients seeking elective surgeries.

“In collaboration with the medical staff beginning Monday we plan to defer all elective inpatient surgeries and only those outpatient electives that require a hospital bed for extended recovery at Huntsville Hospital, Governors Medical Tower, Madison Hospital and Women & Children Hospital. Individual physician offices have begun contacting their patients,” said Doughty.

COVID patients will also not be transferred to other hospitals right now.

“COVID patients are staying in their own local hospitals, and we’re only taking people here that can’t be taken care of in the local setting. Heart attacks, strokes, those type things that can’t be taken care of at their local hospital, we’re doing our best to take those when we can. Our ICU is very busy right now, our ER is very busy, so it’s a case by case basis. And we meet constantly about it with our sister hospitals.”

So, once again, if you have an elective surgery coming up and you may need to spend the night, it will be postponed.

Doughty wants to remind everyone local health leaders are constantly evaluating COVID data and will continue to update services as needed.

“We stay in close contact with the state, looking at numbers and other large hospitals. So it’s an evolving process as we go, we have all types of contingency plans in place, no matter the circumstance.”

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